Sunday March 30 will see the second annual All About Women festival hit the Sydney Opera House. Speakers from Australia and around the world will gather to share their stories and debate important issues surrounding women on a national and global scale. As well as talks and panels, the day will entail film screenings and even a large-scale clothes swap.
The festival was born of the Opera House’s Ideas at the House series. Despite the immense popularity of the program, it was distinctly lacking in female scholarly voices. Head of public programs and curator of All About Women, Ann Mossop, reveals how this resulted in a program titled The F Word: Feminism in the 21st Century. “There was such an amazing response to that, that we thought we should look at providing something a bit bigger and more diverse for that audience who are really hungry for those kind of conversations.” Media guru, author and all around bad arse Jane Caro agrees that the festival is a necessity. “As long as women are 51% of the population, as long as women are number one in the OECD … yes we will continue to need conferences and all sorts of things that are about women, just as we do for any other marginalised group. But the point about women is, unlike any other marginalised group, they are the majority of the population.”
All About Women is a festival that’s imperative in a society where people are trying to treat feminism as a brand that can, ironically, be made sexier and more appealing. “It’s important to hear about issues that concern women in a way that is broader than just whatever the current fashion about feminism is,” says Mossop. Caro adds, “Feminism isn’t a product that you need to sell, it’s a revolutionary movement. It is meant to disturb and it is meant to make people uncomfortable. That’s its job; to change the status quo.”
Despite focus of the festival being on the modern Australian woman, that is not the limit of its relevance. “Lots of women are also thinking about women in other parts of the world where the issues are completely different,” says Mossop. “You may well be thinking about your job and what you want to do, but you’re also thinking about some of the things that we read about women in Pakistan, women in Afghanistan; where the issues are incredibly serious and people feel very strongly about them. So what we try and do with the All About Women program is really get some of that breadth and diversity.” One talk that will certainly explore this diversity will be Mona Eltahawy’s Egypt, the Arab World & the War on Women.
One of the most exciting events of the day will undoubtedly be Pictures of You: Women in Media and Pop Culture, in which panellists Jane Caro, Alison Bechdel and Mona Eltahawy ask, how do media shape our views of women in the online age, and how can we change the way women appear in media? When it comes to this issue, Caro believes that things are beginning to change. “It’s still not perfect by any means, but it’s a lot better than what it was. We are seeing women in the public eye prepared to be much bolshier, much more uncompromising. We are seeing a handful of older women appearing in the media, particularly on publicly owned media, and we are seeing more women who clearly have been promoted for their job skills, not their fuckability.”